Hollow City


Reporting from the front lines of gentrification in San Francisco, Rebecca Solnit and Susan Schwartzenberg sound a warning bell to all urban residents. Wealth is just as capable of ravaging cities as poverty.

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Reporting from the front lines of gentrification in San Francisco, Rebecca Solnit and Susan Schwartzenberg sound a warning bell to all urban residents. Wealth is just as capable of ravaging cities as poverty.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Schwartzenberg’s images survey more than thirty years of upheaval in the name of ‘urban renewal,’ and Solnit’s text brings urgency to the question of whether a place in which artists, activists, and members of diverse races and classes can no longer afford to live is fated to become ‘a city of presentation without creation.’”—New Yorker

“So many of the people who kept American cities alive and creative through dark decades, when capital abandoned the city, have become victims of capital’s recent triumphant return to the city. This beautifully composed and crafted book tells their story. It is a compelling vision of our emerging global culture of displaced persons.”—Marshall Berman

“Passionate, potent, and to the point, Solnit’s polemic embodies American political and social writing at its best.”—Publishers Weekly

“One day, we all woke up and San Francisco had become a bohemian entertainment park, without bohemians. Those were the golden days of virtual capitalism. Rebecca Solnit and Susan Schwartzenberg help us to understand why this happened. Their book is necessary to understanding our new place in a brand new scary world.”—Guillermo Gomez-Pena

Portland Mercury
A comprehensive, articulate, and expressive analysis of why we've essentially lost the richness and vitality of what has always been San Francisco.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"San Francisco has been for most of its 150-year existence both a refuge and an anomaly. Soon it will be neither. Gentrification is transforming the city by driving out the poor... [and] those who have chosen to give their lives over to unlucrative pursuits such as art, activism, social experimentation, and social service." So begins this impassioned cry to save the soul of Baghdad by the Bay (and any American cities under siege by ill-planned overdevelopment). A San Francisco resident who lives in a rent-controlled apartment, Solnit (Wanderlust: A History of Walking) presents a lively mix of research, personal anecdotes, photos and art to show how the industrious development of high-end condos, hotel/office space and dot-com businesses over the past decade has increased the city's economic base at the expense of many of its long-term residents, not to mention its character. Between 1996 and 1997, rental prices went up 37%; last year, some neighborhoods faced a 20% increase within six months. Evictions happen at the rate of five per day, and "70% of those evicted leave the city," leading to the attrition not only of the poor but of the middle class, as well as independent and small businesses. Charting the history of the vibrant San Francisco arts and activist scenes--from the early days of literary bohemia in the 1870s to the 1950s beatniks to the famed political theater of the San Francisco Mime Troupe--Solnit methodically shows how difficult it will be for them to remain viable under the city's new managers. Passionate, potent and to the point, Solnit's polemic embodies American political and social writing at its best. Readers who share her outlook will find it richly satisfying. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Solnit (Wanderlust, Secret Exhibition) here evaluates the current gentrification of San Francisco as an example of a crisis in American cities in general. "The fin above the water. Below is the rest of the shark: a new American economy in which most of us will be poorer, a few will be far richer, and everything will be faster, more homogenous and more controlled or controllable." The author looks at the "Hausmannization" of Paris and its impact on "Bohemians" (i.e., artists and activists) before considering misguided past developments that have resulted in San Francisco's slow loss of its artistic, political, social, and spiritual integrity. This concise, well-written exploration offers no easy answers; the lines between "us" and "them" are constantly changing and blurry at best. Despite inconsistent captions and credits, the historic and contemporary photographs and drawings, sensitively curated by photographer Schwartzenberg, add immeasurably to the rich texture of this sobering thesis. Recommended for urban studies collections and San Francisco-area libraries.--James E. Van Buskirk, San Francisco P.L. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859843635
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 9/17/2002
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 0.41 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 9.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca Solnit is author of, among other books, Wanderlust, A Book of Migrations, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, the NBCC award-winning River of Shadows and A Paradise Built In Hell. A contributing editor to Harper’s, she writes regularly for the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in San Francisco.

Urban archaeologist and artist Susan Schwartzenberg is the author of Market Street, a visual study of San Francisco’s main artery, as well as photo-essays in several books, including Reclaiming San Francisco.

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Table of Contents

Wrecking-Ball Overture 1
San Francisco, Capital of the Twenty-First Century 12
Tools for Managing Loyalty 38
The Shopping Cart and the Lexus 42
Three Photographers and the Transformation of Yerba Buena 64
A Real Estate History of the Avant-Garde 74
The Last Barricades 110
Skid Marks on the Social Contract 118
Amnesia Is a Club 136
San Francisco in Chains 148
Delivered Vacant 152
Notes 173
Acknowledgements 181
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